Features — 01 October 2012

Clean Up on Discarded Ammo

Recycling opportunities aid the environment–and can fatten your bottom line!

. . . . . . . . . . .

By Carolee Anita Boyles

At the end of a busy day, you’re left with piles of plastic hulls and brass, used targets, and other detritus associated with shooting. You can approach their disposal in one of two ways: as garbage to be cleaned up; or as a resource that can add dollars to your bottom line.

“Both lead and brass are recyclable materials,” said Miles Hall, president of H&H Shooting Sports Complex in Oklahoma City, Okla. “This goes to the root of what we’ve been doing as hunters forever. Remember that the shooting community were the original conservationists.”

You can recycle–and make money from–plastic shotgun shells, brass, and even lead. Yes, it’s about stewardship, and it’s also about improving your bottom line any way you can.

“One of the big advantages to recycling all those materials is that it significantly reduces the range’s waste-removal costs,” said Andrew Fishbone, a partner at Garrison Green, a company that develops customized shotgun-hull recycling programs for ranges. “One range we worked with went from a 20-yard dumpster to a 3-yard dumpster, and it’s about to eliminate that.”

Brass is one of the most obvious resources that accumulate on shooting ranges. No matter how many buckets and cans you set out with signs to “Put your brass here!” you’ll wind up having to pick up a lot of it yourself. Several companies, including Ammo-Up and UniqueTek, have equipment to make picking up both brass and empty shotgun hulls much easier than bending over and picking it all up by hand.

Once you have your brass and plastic hulls picked up, you have options for handling both.

“You can sort brass by caliber and sell it to reloaders,” Hall said. “Or you can sell it as scrap without sorting it. As scrap, you can get $1.80 to $2 a pound.”

If you have enough
brass and choose to
sort it, you might
even look at a brass
sorting machine . . .

If you have enough brass and choose to sort it, you might even look at a brass sorting machine such as those made by Camdex and Ultimate Sorter.

“Brass can be a great revenue source for you,” Hall said. “Reloaders will come from all over to buy used brass.”

The one caliber that’s handled separately is .22 brass.

“Most brass recycle facilities won’t accept .22 brass, because it’s a softer type of brass,” Hall said. “However, we recently sold two 55-gallon drums of .22 brass to someone who takes them and makes jackets for bullets out of them.”

Used shotshells have a wide range of uses.

“We’ve been in the shotgun business for more than 23 years, so we’ve always had a lot of hulls,” said Bill Kempffer, president of Deep River Sporting Clays in Sanford, N.C. “We’ve been making them available to our customers to take; if they want to reload them, they can have them.”

Recently, Kempffer has talked with Garrison Green about recycling the hulls that accumulate at Deep River Sporting Clays.

“What we will do is pick up the hulls and put them in bags that Garrison Green provides,” he said. “We use White Flyer targets, and the way this is supposed to work is that when the targets are delivered, our distributor will pick up the bags and take them back to the White Flyer facility, and from there they go to Garrison Green. Then we get credit toward furniture and fixtures made from the recycled hulls.”

Kempffer already has some experience with furniture made from recycled shotgun hulls; he once purchased a judge’s chair made from them.

“It’s absolutely super stuff,” he said. “So we’re looking forward to participating in the program.”

Kempffer says the part that will be hard for him is the labor of preparing the hulls. Shooters leave a lot of hulls on the ground, he said, and when they do pick them up, they mix them with soda cans, plastic water bottles and just plain trash in the range’s barrels.

“What we’re doing is actually sorting everything,” he said. “We put the trash in a different bin and put the hulls into a container that we dump into the Garrison Green bags. It’s going to be an extra step for us, but we think that anything we can do to recycle as opposed to helping fill up land fills is a good thing. So we’ve made a decision that that’s the way we want to go. Anything we can do to help the environment is good public relations and is just common sense.”

Fishbone said recycling hulls is not without challenges.

“It’s very difficult to recycle an object that contains multiple materials,” he said. “Shotshells consist of paper, plastic and metal. What we do is completely destroy and resize the different components. Then they all go to different plants to be made into a variety of things. The metal and paper can be used for just about anything. The plastic becomes poly lumber.”


Bags of spent ammunition earn
points toward low-maintenance
furniture–and money!

As Kempffer said, Garrison Green has partnered with White Flyer to make recycling shotgun shells efficient.

“White Flyer operates factory trucks from three of their locations,” Fishbone said. “When they deliver to clubs, on their empty backhaul, they pick up bags of shotgun shells and wads for us.”

Ranges that provide hulls are enrolled in a rewards program.

“For every bag the range sends us, they get one point,” Fishbone said. “Once they reach four points, they can start cashing in their points for a variety of things such as benches, gun racks, scorers’ chairs, picnic tables and other items made out of poly lumber that is made from shotgun shells. We put that program into place because ranges have so much maintenance and upkeep on wooden benches; having poly lumber furniture eliminates that.”

Eventually, Fishbone said, Garrison Green plans to accept aluminum cans, plastic water bottles and cardboard and paper from ranges as well.

Whether you have an indoor or outdoor range, spent lead is a resource you can recycle.

“There was a time when lead was only a nickel a pound,” Hall said. “But today lead is much more expensive. We have a company that comes in and ‘mines’ the lead out of our trap for us and then pays me for the lead.”

Depending on where you’re located, Hall said, you might make that type of arrangement, or you may pay someone to clean out your trap and then keep the lead and sell it to another company that recycles it.

Kempffer agreed.

“There are companies who will come and ‘mine’ our berms and pay us for the lead,” he said. “We follow the EPA’s best management practices for lead, so we keep track of the number of shots, and we have a good idea of how much lead is out there and where it is.”

Treating lead as a resource has broader implications for ranges than just financial.

“At one range we reclaimed
about 300 tons of lead bullets.
It was almost a football f ield of
big bags full of lead bullets.”

“Reclaiming and recycling lead is the cornerstone of EPA’s best management practices,” said Dick Peddicord, president of Dick Peddicord & Company. “When you reclaim and recycle lead as often as is practical so that you’re managing consistently with EPA’s guidance, EPA views you as being under the scrap-metal-recycling exemptions of waste-management laws. In that case, waste isn’t an issue because the range isn’t generating waste; it’s managing a resource.”

Lead reclamation and recycling companies are easy to find. Several are listed on the National Shooting Sports Foundation website. Companies that work with lead reclamation on active ranges include AMEC Earth and Environmental, URS Corporation, MT2 and NCM. An Internet search should turn up other, smaller reclamation companies in your area as well.

“At one range we reclaimed about 300 tons of lead bullets,” said Paul Stull, associate engineer with AMEC Earth and Environmental. “It was almost a football field of big bags full of lead bullets.”

Unburned powder can be an issue on ranges; equipment such as a Tiger-Vac is useful for cleaning it up. A number of ranges have found ways to recycle, or even sell, unburned powder.

“Some ranges collect powder in a drum and then provide that drum to a local fire department to use in their training programs,” Hall said. He said one range owner has even sold his unburned powder to an organic farmer for fertilizer because it’s so rich in nitrogen.

Recycling goes beyond hulls, brass and lead. When Hall first opened his range, he threw everything away.

“Then we found out that paper and cardboard from targets can be recycled,” he said. “If you generate enough, your local recycling company may bring you a special dumpster for those items.”

Although you may not make much–or any–money recycling your paper and cardboard, it’s still good stewardship to do so.

“There’s lot of opportunity to recycle used ammunition,” Hall said. “If a range owner looks, he can find options, many of which will make money. There’s no down side to recycling used ammunition.”

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